As Elgin church closes school, services still in question

  • Northwest Baptist Academy in Elgin voluntarily closed its school today after originally refusing do so.

    Northwest Baptist Academy in Elgin voluntarily closed its school today after originally refusing do so. Rick West | Staff Photographer

Updated 3/23/2020 5:24 PM

Kane County authorities are urging an Elgin-area church to suspend services and heed the governor's stay-at-home order to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Northwest Bible Baptist Church held its regularly scheduled service on Sunday. However, at the urging of the Kane County sheriff's office, the church since has closed its school and switched to e-learning, sheriff's Lt. Pat Gengler said Monday.


"That was our more immediate concern," Gengler said.

Gengler said the sheriff's office is working with church leaders to persuade them to cancel regular Wednesday and Sunday services for the near future.

"We're going to continue to have a dialogue with them to try to do the same thing that they did with the school," he said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker's order Friday bans all public and private gatherings of 10 or more people. It does not specify religious gatherings, though it does list other types of banned assemblies.

Pastor Keith Gomez could not be reached Monday and did not return multiple calls seeking comment.

Gomez wrote in a Facebook post last week, "anyone who attends will notice visible changes and protective measures being put into action. We take the health of our church family very seriously and have committed extra time and resources to the cleaning and sanitizing procedures that we already have in place."

The church, which describes itself at its website as an "old-fashioned, independent, fundamental Baptist church," is urging members to stay home if they feel ill, are elderly or vulnerable to sickness.

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Gengler said he is unaware of any other religious organizations in the unincorporated areas of Kane County continuing to hold services.

Religious congregations across the suburbs have suspend gatherings to help slow the spread of the coronavirus and heed the governor's order.

If Northwest Bible continues to hold services, the sheriff's office will work with the Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon's office to "take whatever action that is necessary," Gengler said.

It is unclear what authority the county has to enforce a shutdown of a church.

"Those are all conversations that we will have with the state's attorney," Gengler said. "We will continue to monitor the situation. The (coronavirus case) numbers are only going to get worse from here. We're really hoping that the gravity of the situation this particular church's pastor realizes. Doing a couple of weeks of online services, maybe it is a small sacrifice."

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